When we dive into magic, we tend to choose the deepest of the deep ends. That’s part of the thrill of magic: This art is so full of brilliant secrets that we stay underwater after the dive. From books to videos, from tough techniques to performance philosophy, we swim so deeply that we grow gills.
So much so that it’s easy to forget that there are other kinds of books out there, covering a myriad of subjects.
All of which can help your magic.
If you have a burning desire to take your magic further to the point where you want to make a career from it, then you are going to have to be more to the world than just a magician. You must be a networker, a dreamer, a promoter, an entertainer, a worker and in all other respects a regular Renaissance person. Because of the nature of being a magician, more is expected of magicians than other people. We must learn to be so many other different types of experts and have command of many other situations.
Unfair? Sure is. FOR THEM.
The work that this art takes gives us a head and shoulders advantage in virtually any situation we can think of. Our members are more than just magicians — they are accountants, fitness trainers, attorneys, opera singers, journalists, marketers, restaurant managers and more. From the pros who have a day job to the pros who do nothing but magic, our members have a dizzying breadth of experience.
That comes from self-education. To get you started, here are four non-magic books that you can apply to your magic.
“How to Win Friends and Influence People,” by Dale Carnegie
Why you need this: Strengthening people skills
To be frank, we could fill a post with all the great self-help books out there. “The Aladdin Factor,” “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” “Awaken the Giant Within,” “Eat That Frog,” etc. But none are better than one of the originals. Dale Carnegie wrote in 1936 precisely the kind of book he wished he had on his way to becoming one of America’s most legendary teachers and writers.
This book, a.k.a. the “handbook on human relations,” hits everyone the same way Darwin Ortiz’ “Strong Magic” hits magicians — it contains powerful basics that we subconsciously know but just never put words and thought toward. The first two parts, “Fundamental Techniques for Handling People” and “Six Ways to Make People Like You,” offer miles of good advice for any magician who hopes to have clients demand repeat performances — and pay for them.
Magic words: “There is only one way under high heaven to get anybody to do anything … and that is by making the other person want to do it.”
“Steal Like an Artist,” by Austin Kleon
Why you need this: Strengthening creativity and reseach
Similar to the last subject, there are many great books about creativity, such as “The Gift,” “The Artist’s Way,” “A Whack on the Side of the Head,” etc. But Austin Kleon’s highly visual, simple and powerful book on creativity speaks to us strongly, mainly because “steal” is such a touchy word in the world of magic. Yet Kleon has arguably written the best book on magic ethics ever written — and he’s not even a magician.
Kleon would make a great magician simply by applying the thoughts he developed in his book. Stemming from his experience in writing “Newspaper Blackout,” a book of poetry made from selecting certian words in newspaper stories and blacking out the rest, he came up with some outstanding cardinal rules about inspiration. If every magician stuck to Kleon’s chart about good theft vs. bad theft, we’d never hear about feuding magicians again.
Magic words: “The great thing about dead or remote masters is that they can’t refuse you as an apprentice. You can learn whatever you want from them. They left their lesson plans in their work.”
“The Demon-haunted World,” by Carl Sagan
Why you need this: Strengthening scientific skills and appreciation
Carl Sagan made a career of how pursuit of scientific knowledge can feel as fulfilling as a religious experience. While this book appears to be more about debunking pseudo-scientific philosophies from UFOs to ghosts, it is more an in-depth introduction to the scientific method, and how to find mystical joy in adhering to its rules. Sagan also teaches readers the benefits and tactics of skepticism.
As a magician, you’re going to need a firm grasp of both of those things. As you dream up new effects, you’ll want to be able to test out methods in a no-nonsense, results-driven way. And once you learn how to be a good skeptic, you know how to confront it when your spectators are filled with skepticism. But even if those lessons don’t stick, Sagan will leave you breathless in apprecation for the myriad of REAL magical mysteries around us.
Magic words: “The method of science, as stodgy and grumpy as it may seem, is far more important than the findings of science.”
“Word Hero,” by Jay Heinrichs
Why you need this: Strengthening speaking skills
Presentation is everything for a magician — our patter can undermine and sabotage our magic, or it can transform it into a powerful, real experience for audiences. But how to do that, especially when writing doesn’t seem like our strong suit? Heinrichs helps big-time in his book.
“Word Hero” teaches what Heinrichs calls “witcraft.” It’s the ability to craft memorable, powerful, quotable words. The book is filled with strategies and examples culled from experts such as Oscar Wilde and Jimmy Kimmel. This book will strengthen your written and spoken word skills. It will help you become the kind of magician you want to be, because it will help audiences remember you and the magic you created.
Magic words: “I believe that most thoughtful people have the stuff of great words within them. The inspiration — wit, even genius — lies buried in our subconscious.”
FOUR POINTS is a regular feature that celebrates magicians’ favorite number by highlighting four critical bits of importance, awesomeness or otherwise. Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.